Local artists carves lakes into wood
When Matt Easley sees a lake, he can’t resist picturing it 3-D and his beautiful artwork reflects it.
Matt began Wooden Waters only a couple of years ago, but his unique woodworking style is garnering him lots of interest. So far he features, and sells, his art at the Eagle River Cranberry Fest and at Canoecopia that is held each year in Madison.
“I hear lots of stories when I take my artwork to these shows,” Matt said. “People are always pointing out spots on different lakes they know.”
Matt was raised in Lodi and started coming to the Northwoods during the summer months when he got a job with a construction company that was working in the area.
“I loved the Northwoods the very first time I came here,” he said. “I knew someday this is where I wanted to live.”
Matt made that dream come true eight years ago and now is employed as a remote service technician, working on and fixing gambling machines at different casinos. He has a strong background in electronics and industrial automation, a far cry from the sawdust and piney aroma of a woodworking shop.
It was his Grandpa that turned him on to crafting items from wood. Matt has always enjoyed creating handmade furniture and other items for his home, so one day he decided to combine his industrial know how with woodworking and came up with creating wooden 3-D lake maps.
Studying them up close reveals the time and talent it takes to create these intricate replications.
“It takes about 20 hours to complete one,” he said.
The first step is choosing the right wood for a project. He mostly uses pine, aspen, maple and oak. He finds contour lake maps available through the DNR and then the tedious work begins.
Matt actually built a machine that can be adapted to a specific computer aided design program but it takes many hours to draw the map into this program so a tiny saw can accurately cut into a board. But there’s more.
Once the shape of the lake is cut, then he cuts more lines that depict depth and the contours of the bottom of the lake. Islands are also included, all carved into one solid piece of wood.
“You have to be very accurate when you are creating these contours and it takes many hours to get it just perfect,” he said. “It’s surprising how well people know the lake they live on. They will point out mistakes if I make any.”
Once he has programmed in a certain lake then he has to make sure his machine can actually make the right cuts to create the map.
The first body of water Matt created was Frost Lake which is located near the boundary waters.
“That lake has always been a favorite of mine,” he said. “It’s very beautiful and I wanted to create something as a keepsake for that body of water.”
But as he soon learned, there were other lake lovers that also wanted a favorite body of water depicted in such a unique way.
“People that live on a certain lake or near one really find these fascinating,” he said. “They study them for a long time. I do a lot of maps of Lake Mendota and Monona when I show down in Madison. Those are the two primary bodies of water in that area.”
But the possibilities in the Northwoods are endless as far as different lakes are concerned.
“Seems like I never do two lakes twice,” he said with a laugh. “But that’s what keeps this hobby interesting for me.”
Right now Matt works out of his garage but he’s hoping in the near future to purchase some land and then build a special work shop where he can devote more time and space to this interesting hobby.
“That would be my dream,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind at all if I could make these maps all the time.”
For more information about Wooden Waters call Matt at 715-401-9012.